A Curse Dark as Gold

Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic | March 1, 2008
ISBN: 978-0439895767 | 400 pp | Grades 7-12

As Charlotte struggles to manage the difficulties she inherits along with Stirwaters Woollen Mill, she discovers a shadow world at the fringes of the familiar: dark magic, restless spirits, a mysterious Helper. A wicked uncle, an age-old curse…. How can Charlotte prevail with such forces allied against her? In this novel inspired by “Rumpelstiltskin,” the miller’s daughter of the fairy tale comes to life as a young woman determined to save her family and her mill–whatever the cost.

  • William C. Morris Award for a Young Adult Debut
  • An ALA Best Book for Young Adults
  • A Smithsonian Notable Book
  • A Kansas Notable Book
  • Kansas Library’s 150 Books for 150 Years selection
  • An Amelia Bloomer Project selection
  • Finalist for the Cybils Award
  • An Oprah’s Book Club Kids’ Reading List Teen Selection
  • Justine Magazine Spark selection

Peter S. Beagle, World-Fantasy Award-winning author of Tamsin and The Last Unicorn:  Sometimes you can literally smell the presence of a writer almost before reading the first lines of a first novel.  Elizabeth Bunce is the real thing, no question about it.  A Curse Dark as Gold beats the hell out of any fantasy novel I’ve read this year.  Her heroine/narrator is immensely appealing; the atmosphere of a world on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution is completely believable; and the suspense of the story builds so craftily that I started taking notes on just how she does it.  Speaking as a writer, Elizabeth Bunce is definitely worth” stealing from; speaking as a reader…all right, all right, already, I couldn’t put it down.  She’s that good.”

* Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, starred review: “Bunce blends multiple elements in her savory stew of genres—mystery, romance, work, and chicanery simmer in a rich broth… a tale that is as spooky and suspenseful as it is satisfying.”

Horn Book: “In this slow-simmering but rewarding retelling, first-novelist Bunce presents an innovative interpretation of Rumpelstiltskin. The result is a fully realized dramatic conflict characterized by the folkloric magic of memory imprinted upon place; inherited legacies; and the power of recognition, recompense, and forgiveness.”

Kirkus: “In a hefty, thoughtful Rumpelstiltskin tale, Charlotte Miller fights and strains and sacrifices to embody her surname. As stubborn Charlotte fiercely defends Stirwaters against physical and financial ruin… secrecy and fear lead to a near-loss of her infant son to the Rumpelstiltskin figure, a classic tortured ghost from ages past. His origins unravel the tangled mystery.”

School Library Journal: “Ghosts, witchcraft, elements of Georgian society, and much earlier folk magic in the guise of a novel of manners. A rich opening to Jane Austen’s world for teens.”

Children’s Literature Review: “Beautifully told, with a vivid historical setting, endearing characters, and a suspenseful and unpredictable plot. Bunce spins an innovative and believable story that captures the heart and magic of the original fairytale. The well-crafted writing grabs readers from the first paragraph and keeps them hanging for the ride.”

KLIATT: “A rich, compelling story… Readers will be drawn into the mystery of the mill, its supposed curse and the little man who offers unconventional assistance.”

Sarah Miller, author of Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller: “Let’s just make this perfectly clear: I loved this book. Fairy tales retold are pretty much a sure thing with me, but this one’s a humdinger. Think you know Rumpelstiltskin? Think again.”

Bookshelves of Doom: “Curse has loads of atmosphere and the story feels familiar but, at the same time, new and different and surprising.  …Fantastic. Highly, highly recommended.”

Teen Book Review: “An intelligent, original, and interesting new take on an old fairy tale, and a marvelous debut novel.”

Julie M. Prince, YA Books Central: “In a debut novel that kept me up at night and had its characters dancing their way through my dreams, Elizabeth C. Bunce has managed to spin a tale worthy of any folklorist’s admiration.”

Betsy Bird, Fuse #8: “Bunce has clearly defined herself as “one to watch” and I’ll be first in line to see whatever it may be that she has hidden up her sleeve next. A good start to an authorial career.”

One Librarian’s Book Reviews: “Such an excellent retelling of Rumpelstiltskin that I almost decided to like the original tale!  Bunce’s beautiful writing blew me away and I loved the interesting and subtle touches of otherness.”

Sondra Ecklund, Sonderbooks: “Charlotte is such a determined, capable character, you quickly find yourself rooting for her to succeed, even though you can’t imagine how she’ll pull it off.”

Book Smugglers: “A Curse Dark as Gold is, beyond a doubt, the best fairy tale retelling I have ever had the pleasure of reading.”

Oprah’s Book Club: “A suspenseful, romantic and magical tale that keeps the reader engrossed until the end.”